Timmy bounced along through the cool autumn night, ignoring nothing. The crisp evening air, tinged with the flavor of dead, decaying leaves and just the slightest hint of smoke. The sound of his tennis shoes plopping in steady rhythm on the cracked sidewalk. The lighted jack-o-lanterns which graced almost every stoop, the flickering of their candles delicious, hypnotizing. And the shadows, of course. Always the shadows. Darker than the sable curtain of night which hung around him, they held mist-formed hands and swayed to and fro, and they watched him. He tried to ignore them, tried his best to just enjoy the evening, but their presence was suffocating. Finally, he could stand it no more. "Go away," he said to them, relishing the way the words came out of his mouth. "There’s still time. Go away." The shadows faded into the Halloween night. Another house. Timmy bounded up the walkway and onto the front steps. Oh, how he loved this night! Why must it come only once a year? The sights, the sounds--it was all so incredible. On his way up the steps he stopped, bent over the jack-o-lantern, and inhaled deeply. Smoke mingled with the savory aroma of cooking pumpkin. He inhaled again, so deeply that he was almost afraid he would burst, but loving it just the same. Ahead of him, there was already a small group of children at the door. A witch, a vampire, and something that looked like a robot. Their costumes were plastic and shiny. Timmy wondered how the sleek fabric would feel against his skin. Candy retrieved, the group turned from the door. The little girl in the witch costume noticed him and stopped. "Hey kid. Where’s your costume?" "I’m wearing it," Timmy said proudly. "This is my Halloween face." "It’s just your regular face." Timmy smiled and shrugged. Halloween would be over soon, and he didn’t want to waste time arguing. He pushed past the witch and went to the door. A woman smiled at him and put some candy in his bag. She was wearing perfume and it smelled really nice. Timmy wished that he could take a big sniff of her, but he knew that it wouldn’t be good manners, so he turned and skipped off the porch. At the sidewalk, the other kids were waiting. Did they want him to join them? He felt a little nervous, but only for a moment. It would be nice to have someone to talk to, even for only a few hours. "What’s your name?" the little witch asked. "Timmy." "You wanta walk with us? We’re gonna finish here on Grand, then we’re going over to Spruce." "Sure," said Timmy. He followed as the little group started off. What a night! Oh, it was all so grand! "My name’s Shelia," said the witch. "The vampire is Bobby, and Dillon is the Gargo-Bot. Where do you live?" "Over on Central," replied Timmy. He stuck a hand in his bag and came out with a caramel. He unwrapped it, savoring the sound of crinkling cellophane, and popped it into his mouth. Gooey sweetness began to melt and trickle down his throat. He giggled at the sensation. "How come I’ve never seen you at school?" Bobby asked. "Just moved here," said Timmy. He knew the rote, practiced it all year long, in fact. He went back into the bag and found a piece of hard candy. From somewhere up the street, spooky Halloween music blared. "I like your vampire costume." "Isn’t it neat?" asked Bobby, his curiosity averted. "If I squeeze this thing inside my cape, blood comes out of my fangs. See?" He turned and Timmy watched as a trickle of fake blood oozed from the plastic fangs. "Cool," said Timmy. "I think it’s gross," Shelia said. Another door, more treats. Timmy already had enough--too much, in fact--but it was fun getting it, just the same. Besides, he liked the smells coming from the houses, the glimpses he caught behind the people at the doors. There was so much light. There were shadows, too, but he paid them no mind. "Watch my mask," Dillon said when they were back on the sidewalk. He pushed a button on his chin and the mask began to sparkle in a rainbow of colors. Timmy gazed at the flashing lights, soaking up each and every one. "My mask doesn’t do anything," Shelia pouted, then became defiant. "It’s a neat witch mask, though. Don’t you think?" "I’m just happy to have a face," said Timmy, and it must have struck Shelia as funny, because she began to giggle. Soon it infected Bobby and Dillon, and they began to laugh, too. Even Timmy joined in, feeling the ecstasy of his own laughter. Harder and harder they laughed, as if it had been the funniest thing any of them had ever heard. Timmy laughed so hard his face fell off. "Shit!" he said, then regretted it because that was a bad word, and he wasn’t supposed to say bad words. It really didn’t matter, though, because he had no mouth and all that came out was a muffled ‘mmpphh!’. He dropped his bag and knelt down, groping blindly, trying to find his face. Finally his hand lit upon it, and he grabbed it by the fleshy pulp of the nose. It took a few seconds to get it back on. Timmy blinked his eyes, trying to get them focused. He was alone on the street. The others must have gone on without him. From somewhere nearby, a door slammed. He picked up his bag and turned to the shadows. "I’ve still got a little while," he told them. "Halloween’s not over yet." He decided to skip the rest of this street and go on to the next. Around him, the sights and sounds and smells filled the night like the sweetest candy.
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